Since I’m on a roll with this whole ‘Bulk Buy’ theme, the time has come for me to explain why I’m kicking Costco to the curb.
Photo courtesy of miamism and indicative of why I’m opting out.
To provide a little background let me say, we’ve been loyal Costco members for going on 7 years. At our old house, the location was incredibly convenient. Just as close as other grocery stores. Where we live now, its just down the block from our gym. We’ve refined our Costco shopping over the years. Now we shop there mostly for staples; sugar, vinegar, baking soda, TP, canned tomatoes, olive oil, beans, etc., With the occasional trip for Mexican Coke and fancy cheeses in preparation for a party or event. The Husband buys 98% of his gas there, as did I prior to making the switch to diesel. This is all to illustrate, we use Costco pretty avidly.
This relationship has served us well. We have the Amex Rewards card that provides us 1% cash back on all our purchases. This easily covers the yearly fee and then some.
In No Big Box challenge 2011 Costco, along with Amazon, were the noted exceptions. My hold outs because they are locally headquartered businesses with a history of providing livable wage jobs, and being innovators in their field. Allowing ourselves to continue to patronize these two Big Boxes, contributed to the overriding success of the challenge in it’s first year.
So why dump them? If this is a mutually beneficial relationship, why sever all ties?
Well, Costco it’s not you. It’s me. Sort of.
Politics. Last year Costco bought an election in my state. It was for an initiative that had failed the previous year in a similar iteration. An initiative that stood to make Costco gobs of money in liquor sales. So, they threw their weight behind it and made an obscene ‘donation’. It passed. Surprise, surprise. Regardless of my views on the privatization of liquor sales, this leaves me with an icky feeling. I know, I know. It happens all the time. I’m not that naive. Show me other such blatant examples, and I will do my damnedest not to patronize those corporations either. The whole basis of the Big Box Challenge is my predisposition to being distrustful of these mega monolith businesses. Costco used their girth to get what they wanted to happen in Washington State. I don’t think they should have that kind of power. I certainly am not going to continue to put my money behind it.
Unpleasantness. I hate going to Costco. The store near my house is ridiculously crowded. So much so, that it is nearly impossible to navigate on weekends. I am not one to rearrange my schedule to get down to Costco at 11am on a Tuesday in order to beat the crowds. I don’t have that much flexibility, and even if I did I’m not going to use it just to go to Costco. If you manage to make it in the door, what is it about Costco that inspires rude behavior? The abandonment of monster carts in the middle of the isle. The blocking of key items in order to have an engrossing conversation with your partner while being completely oblivious to the line of people queuing up behind you who just want a carton eggs. It’s an inexplicable phenomenon in which perfectly reasonable people lose their sense of common courtesy upon entrance. Maybe it’s the near fisticuffs just to get in the place. I don’t know. In any case, Costco is NOT the happiest place on earth.
Mind Games. I’ve read about their marketing strategy. I know Costco doesn’t want you to be comfortable. They want to keep things bare bones. That way think you are getting a good warehouse deal, and you make impulse decisions because you want to get the heck out of there. They take it even further though. By never keeping key items in the same spot twice, they inspire a scavenger hunt mentality, in which you have to search every stinking isle for the organic sugar you’ve bought a million times before, but can suddenly no longer locate. If it’s a search, then when you actually do find it, you will be so happy, you’ll buy more. Every item feels like a quest. They also pull staple items off the market for a few months and then bring them back. Once again, creating this sense of false scarcity compelling us to buy, buy, buy! Again, Costco is not alone in this type of manipulation. For some reason though, theirs seems more transparent, and it pisses me off.
Let’s review, I pay for the privilege to fight my way into a store, so I can search high and low for items I know should be there, through the sea of other unhappy consumers on their own quest through unpleasantness. We do all this, we play their game, and they purchase elections.
Maybe its not me, Costco. Maybe it’s you.
It’s become a bit of a battle between The Husband and I on who will make the trip. I prefer not to go at all. He doesn’t want to have to fight it alone. And so our trips have gotten less and less frequent. We save up lists. We look for unique window of opportunity. We put it off for as long as possible. The yucky politics? That just put me over the top. It’s not worth it to shop with a store who intentionally makes my trip unpleasant, where I never know if I’m going to find the item on my list anyway. I’m looking at this as another opportunity to cut ties with a corporate entity who does not have my best interest, or that of my community, in mind.
So, thanks Costco. Thanks using the 22 million to get what you wanted. It certainly helped me put things into perspective.